Thaw in The Pas

A few years ago, my shoulder froze. At the time, I said I’d write about it someday but I haven’t, not until now. Now, my other shoulder is acting up, the right one, the one that helps me move my dominant hand and that’s, you know, alarming.

A frozen shoulder is a very strange thing. It simply freezes, the doctor told me. No rhyme or reason. No logic to which the experts can point. It’s like the joint slips into a panic response and locks up.

Give it a year, he said, and he was right. That summer we didn’t do much – paddling the canoe would have been too hard – but then Mowat had his first knee surgery in the spring so he was also not up for any backwoods adventures even though he was only two and still a crazy puppy.

Last night I watched a talk with Haemin Sunim, author of Love for Imperfect Things, during Tara Brach‘s weekly live stream. It was about perfectionism.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because it’s a topic I wrote about for the course I’m currently teaching and is one of the things that freezes me: the fear that this, whatever it is, isn’t good enough.

I’ve been looking forward to this talk, the monk said, sitting in his robes and gazing through dark sunglasses at the audience.

And then, two days ago, he got pink eye. “I look like a villain,” he said, and then he had a choice: to look at the positive rather than the things outside of his control.

He did not have the flu. He had the opportunity to look like a cool Tibetan monk, like Neo from The Matrix.

I laughed. He was very funny. Also nervous and a fast talker and unsure if his message was getting through. Imperfect.

Life happens, doesn’t it? Last night I had a dream that I was with my late brother in Hawaii. We were looking at some lush, tropical plants. Soon it will be like that! I said, pointing at them. Hopeful, eager, excited.

Well, duh, Tim said.

Yes, Lauren, the seasons move along. Where are you rooted right now?

I have a book coming out. This is always a time of excitement and also trepidation. This one has lived with me for longer than a decade. Some of the poems in it I wrote when I was a different person, in my early thirties. They are intensely personal.

How will people take them?

Will my shoulder allow me to hold the book during readings?

Often, I think of Catherine Bush’s blog post about the complicated feelings around sending a book into the world. She says this:

There’s an inevitable vulnerability in the risk of self-exposure, or in the risky self-exposure. Humiliation rises among a sea of other emotions. We don’t talk much about the place of shame in publication but I’d wager most writers touch it to some degree. We long to disown what we’ve written, to cast it off in case it embarrasses us, or because it embarrasses us, because we’ve put everything of ourselves into it and that’s embarrassing, because the disowning is necessary in order to move on. We don’t know what we’ve done.

Shame, yes. Intense discomfort, check.

But while observing and experiencing these natural emotions, I am also working on taking a page from Haemin and attempting to focus on the pleasurable, the positive: mainly, my amazement that this is what I do.

Write down words and sentences to express my innermost selves, to connect with others who might be feeling similar things, to move them, make them feel, make them think.

To share my thoughts, the way I see the world.

How lucky am I?

To move my arm freely after a year of it being locked in place.

To have faith that spring will eventually arrive.